June 27, 2012
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Revising the house style

I kept this post in the penalty box for three months. It’s still right. It’s time.

Maybe Professor Emerson was right at MLA:

It is remarkable that in just ten years, since the publication of the first book on electronic literature (Loss Glazier’s Digital Poetics in 2001)...

Jill finds some older precedents through Google; I found a bunch more in about ten minutes lying around my desk. Books, dissertations, journal articles, newspaper stories, conference papers. In any case, "hypertext fiction" and "electronic literature" were synonyms until Aarseth’s Cybertext tried to build a richer taxonomy, which was useful, and a faction tried to exploit that taxonomy for essentially political ends, which was not.

Jill has some Moretti-influenced ethnographic theories about why some of the early hypertexts prospered most. One explanation she slights is, I think, the most powerful: they prospered because they were really good.

What is to be done? Perhaps we should add another line to our slender style manual.

Illiteracies and other terms to avoid:

  • hyperlink (prefer “link”)
  • Flash fiction (ambiguous)
  • hypermedia (use “hypertext”)
  • electronic literature (obsolete)

There: problem solved.

I’m disappointed with what called itself the #elit “community,” though I can’t say I’m surprised. Never mind: there’s a lot of work to do.